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The Economist Cover: Trumps’ Triumph, Americas’s Tragedy

May 6, 2016

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Mr Trump has railed against trade deals for decades. He was arguing against NAFTA in the early 1990s. He now calls it the worst trade deal in the history of the world. Similarly, he has always viewed America’s trade deficit as evidence of foul play or poor negotiating skills. For a man with such convictions, it is plain that more such trade deals would be a disaster and that American companies should move production back home or face tariffs. Mr Trump might be willing to bargain over the penalties they should pay, but the underlying instincts are deeply held. He is a conviction protectionist, not an opportunistic one. And, judging by the results of the Republican primaries, at least 10m voters agree with him.

On foreign policy Mr Trump mixes a frustration at the costs of America’s global role, something that has become common after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a desire to make the country feared and respected. Those outside America who dwell on his geographical and diplomatic ignorance (of which there is plenty) risk missing the simple principle that animates him. Mr Trump wants to make those outside America pay the full cost of the hegemonic protection it gives them. Allies should have to stump up more for American bases on their soil, and for the costs of equipping and paying the soldiers in them. It is not correct to call this isolationism, since Mr Trump has also proposed some foreign adventures, including the occupation of Iraq and seizure of its oilfields. Rather it is a Roman vision of foreign policy, in which the rest of the world’s role is to send tribute to the capital and be grateful for the garrisons.

For those, such as this newspaper, who believe in the gains from globalisation and the American-led liberal order, this is a truly terrifying world-view. Fortunately, Mr Trump will probably lose the general election. A candidate whom two-thirds of Americans view unfavourably will find it hard to win 65m votes, which is about what the winning candidate will need. The share of women who disapprove of him is even higher.

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